With this post, I want to demystify marketing audits. I will concentrate specifically on digital marketing audits and tell you everything I know. You will have all my know-how, see an example audit and have access to my template.
Table of Contents
What is a marketing audit?
A Marketing Audit is a thorough observation, evaluation, and analysis of all the marketing environments of a brand, a product, or a whole company. An audit will look at internal and external communication, evaluate results against goals, inspect strategy and execution. The final purpose of an audit is to identify areas of improvement, provide insights and recommend solutions.
The end result of an audit is not just a documentation of the existing situation but a plan of action to enhance the marketing effort.
What is the purpose of a marketing audit?
A marketing audit is a great way to disrupt the business as usual and have a new look at the marketing work through fresh eyes. Marketing audits can be a yearly routine in some companies. Or can be used to switch gears when things appear to be stagnating.
The purpose of the audit is:
- A comprehensive look at the whole marketing effort;
- An impartial, blameless evaluation of the work done (in a post-mortem style);
- A set of actionable recommendations that can guide the way forward.
Why should every marketer start from a marketing audit?
A marketing audit is the best way to get to understand how a company thinks, plans, and executes its marketing.
Being clear on what is happening, highlighting the best practices and the areas that need improvement are the best way to start improving a marketing strategy.
Every new marketing director should start from it, on the first days of the new job. Every marketing agency should push to run such an audit when they are first invited to work with a new client. Every new marketing coach would provide great benefit to their client if they started their coaching and teaching engagement by providing the client with a marketing audit.
What are the components of a successful marketing audit?
Every successful marketing audit should include these five foundational elements:
- Marketing objectives;
- Marketing plans;
- Channel overview;
- Competitor analysis;
The auditor needs to acquire the documentation relative to the original marketing objectives the company set out to achieve. The auditor will also get in touch with the marketing stakeholders to ask how up-to-date these objectives are in light of current events.
The marketing audit needs to feature a detailed analysis of the marketing objectives and how they are being met by the marketing plans.
The auditor needs to acquire all the documentation relative to marketing planning and execution. All briefs, all budgets, and planning documents are helpful to better understand not just the budget allocation but its intention and spirit.
The marketing plans provide important benchmarks that the auditor can use to measure results.
The auditor needs to work with the marketing department to assess what are the marketing channels that are worthy of being analyzed. For instance: press, internal communication, email marketing, websites, partnerships, and individual social media channels can all be viewed as channels.
In this phase, either the client or the auditor will make some suggestions in terms of what channels to focus on during the audit. For instance, the auditor may spend less time looking at a channel where the company does not see the potential for investment and devote more time to the channels where they expect to see more growth.
A marketing audit needs some reference points, some anchors to better explain the results. There are no better reference points than the benchmarks set by competitors.
Competitors don’t just provide quantitative data (for instance, easy to see vanity metrics like Instagram followers or YouTube views), but also best practices, tone of voice, messaging examples.
A marketing audit needs to focus on the suggestions, tips and insights that the auditor can provide to their client. Their advice should be a guide for the company to act on their marketing goals in a new, more insightful and informed way.
Recommendations are the essential outcome of any successful marketing audit.
Why is marketing audit important?
A marketing audit is important because it provides all the interested parties with a clear picture not only of the status quo but of the perspective going forward.
A marketing audit is a moment of growth and learning for all parts of the company. It’s important also to see it as a blameless, scientific evaluation, not a finger-pointing blame-game.
How do you write a marketing audit?
A marketing audit requires different phases:
- Data acquisition;
- Data presentation;
- Workshops and follow-ups.
In the research phase, the auditor will look at the marketing touchpoints through the eyes of the customers. The auditor wants to understand all the customer journeys that customers will encounter when interacting with the audited company.
In the data acquisition phase, the auditor will request access to all marketing platforms and acquire data directly from the audited company. For instance, they will gather web analytics data, social media dashboard data and email marketing data from the respective providers.
The data acquired needs to be presented in the best way. In this phase, the auditor will export and visualize the data in the most appropriate way to understand the nuances of the data.
In the drafting phase, the auditor will write down their observations, conclusions and recommendations, following the template of their choice.
A draft will be released to the client to gather feedback. In the phase the client might want clarifications or have further materials to submit to the auditor. Based on economic agreements, the auditor will offer a certain number of rounds of revisions and then provide a final version.
The auditor will present the findings in a variety of ways. They will prepare a one-page executive summary for the board of directors, a highlight presentation for the top management, and an in-depth presentation for the marketing team.
Workshops and Follow-Ups
What questions should a marketing audit address?
A marketing audit should address the main issues a marketing department is facing at any given time. For example:
- Are our goals correctly set?
- Are we doing all that is needed to reach our goals?
- Are we learning from data and adjusting our strategy and execution accordingly?
- Are our assumptions correct?
- Are there best practices that we should learn from?
- Are there some mistakes we need to avoid in the future?
- Are there some areas that require great improvement?
How many types of marketing audits are there?
There are as many types of marketing audits as there are marketing departments. Auditors listen to the brief from the client and adapt to their specific needs.
Marketing audits may differ in focus given to different aspects of marketing. For instance:
- Auditing the brand and messaging;
- Auditing paid advertising;
- Auditing websites and SEO;
- Auditing social media;
- Auditing email marketing.
What does a marketing audit template look like?
What you can find below as an example is the structure of an audit I delivered to an important client in the entertainment sector in September of 2020.
It’s the closest I can get to revealing what an actual marketing audit looks like (without you paying me).
One-page summary with all the major conclusions of the audit.
Focus on the website starting from observing it as a user.
Deep dive in the numbers and in the performance of the key content of the website.
Deep dive into the on-page and off-page SEO metrics of the website.
Focus on site performance from the point of view of speed both for users and search engines.
Focus on the information architecture of the website and how it impacts its accessibility.
Focus on social media channels sorted by the importance given to them by the company
Deep dive into the audience, top content, worse-performing content, conversion metrics, community management.
Focus on new opportunities represented by untapped social channels where no official profile has yet been created.
Deep dive into the audience, performance and content of the email marketing effort.
Deep dive in the performance of video on social platforms, e.g. YouTube
Deep dive into the performance of web, computer and mobile apps.
Focus on PR with a specific accent on perception and use of the earned media.
Deep dive into the marketing partnerships and recommendations on further partners.
Deep dive into branding, brand perception and brand campaigns.
Deep dive on outreach, link building and community building activities outside of social media.
Summary of the main recommendations emerging from the audit.
Focus on the most interesting opportunities for improvement and evolution of the marketing department.
How much does a marketing audit cost?
A marketing audit is a time-intensive activity and has a cost proportional to the level of detail you will agree with the auditor.
A going rate for a marketing consultant could be estimated at around 150 USD per hour, and a rather superficial marketing audit could require a bare minimum of 40 hours of work.
We can, therefore, assess 6.000 USD as a minimum price for an audit. An in-depth marketing audit would require well over 100 hours of work for an average price of 15.000 USD.
These prices can be reduced if you ask for a package of audit and coaching.
Whom can I hire to execute a marketing audit?
Your auditor should be someone with a great reputation, a transparent track record and great experience in marketing. Asking for references is an excellent way to check out the credentials of potential auditors. The level of refinement of their website is also a good indicator of how attentive they would be when it comes to taking care of the details of your marketing.
If you think we could be a good fit, I would be happy to provide you with a marketing audit. To know more, please book a call with me.